The past few decades have seen the emergence of superstars like Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, who could go down as Immortals. But where does James Maloney fit in?
Home ground advantage has gone out the window in the 2017 State of Origin series and the Blues can make it a rare trifecta of away wins.
For the first time in more than 20 years New South Wales look set to have the same team for all three games. It would have been easy to make a few rash changes after blowing Game 2 but the faith Laurie Daley has shown in his troops will surely rub off on the players.
The combinations will feel natural now, especially for James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce, while Nathan Peats has stepped up to the plate at hooker.
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In the opposite corner, Queensland have copped plenty of criticism for leaving out Daly Cherry-Evans and that puts massive pressure on Cameron Munster to perform in the number six jumper. What a time to make your debut!
You can see the theory behind going with Munster alongside his Melbourne teammate Cooper Cronk in the halves but that leaves Michael Morgan in an unfamiliar role in the centres and that could be a massive advantage to the Blues.
Ben Hunt goes from playing for Ipswich to being on the bench for Origin. He’ll feel the pinch for every minute of game time he sees.
Usually, you’d say the Blues have no chance in a decider at Suncorp Stadium. Usually, you’d be right. But the fact New South Wales did a number on a Johnathan Thurston-less Maroons just six weeks ago at the same ground has to count for something.
It shouldn’t feel daunting to take on Queensland in that cauldron and no doubt the replay of Game 1 will already have been watched a few times this week in the Blues camp.
Game 1 is the exact blueprint to holding up that prized shield for the cockroaches.
Andrew Fifita was a big part of the success and he needs to bottle up his anger from that Queensland pub’s social media post about his daughter and use it on the field for some more huge yards.
Apart from random pub social media posts, the Blues will want to prove to the legends of the game like Andrew Johns that they have what it takes to finish the job.
Johns’ scathing criticism of the New South Wales tactics in Game 2 will serve as motivation.
There is no JT this time around and Billy Slater may or may not be in the same boat as Blues captain Boyd Cordner with a niggling injury. It could be a brutal stalemate with pre-existing injuries playing their part at the back end of the game.
That’s when the backs need to step up and take the pressure off the tired forwards. James Tedesco, Brett Morris, Josh Dugan and Jarryd Hayne are all capable of producing the match winning moment.
In Game 1, Tedesco and Dugan proved their worth in defence too with some of the all-time great try savers.
The Blues defence was lacking the same intensity in Sydney though and they can’t afford to miss tackles like they did in Game 2.
It’s sure to be an emotional night for Queensland with Johnathan Thurston to be honoured before the game and it could very well be Cronk’s last appearance for his state. This ‘win it for them’ mentality can make or break a team and the expectation to perform magnifies.
If the Blues can keep their composure and more importantly their concentration the side with the better team on paper will have enough to take the shield back to New South Wales. They just have to be reminded it’s an 80 minute game. Maybe Tommy Raudonikis can pass on that wisdom?